Originally Posted by TheVulture
I don't think that's actually true. I did a comparison of all members of starting rotations from 1966 and 1996, and the starters from 1966 not only pitched more innings over their careers, on average their careers lasted considerably longer. I don't have the numbers anymore, but I believe the number of starting pitchers from '66 who lasted 10+ years in the majors was over 80%, significantly higher than those from '96.
I've often wondered if that was the case. Money might have something to do with it. Players are paid more than they were in the past. The pension is better than it used to be. Players don't need to play as long as they might have 50 years ago. But the sort of mileage I used to see on some veteran arms is unreal compared to what you see today. It isn't like pitchers over their careers are throwing as many pitches or even innings as they ever did, but spreading them over more seasons.
You look at Mickey Lolich, not a Hall of Famer, but an elite pitcher in his prime. He had four straight 300-plus-inning seasons, but he had to retire at 38. I used to read about how people in baseball thought so highly of Sergio Santos, not just because of his great stuff, but because there was so little mileage on his arm, less than 50 innings in the minors after coming up as an infielder. In his two seasons with the Blue Jays, he has pitched less than 20 in the majors, although this year he has pitched a little more than 20 in the minors.
I have a few problems with pitch counts. Some pitches put more pressure on a pitcher's arm than others. There was a time when the split-finger fastball was the pitch to get hitters out, but many pitchers found it put more stress on their arms. Fastballs tend to be less stressful than breaking pitches. Pitches from the stretch are more stressful than pitches from the windup for most pitchers. Just looking at a pitch count doesn't tell you how much wear pitcher has put on his arm. Not to compare Sergio Santos to Mickey Lolich, but if you are using one pitch-count standard for everyone, that is pretty much what you are doing.
And, really, if you have to come out of the game at around 100 pitches, you are putting strain on the rest of the staff because games pitched is just as big a concern as innings pitched for most relief pitchers. You have your go-to guys in the bullpen, but they won't be as effective if you have to go to them every day. And if strikeouts are part of what you're using to gauge a pitcher's success, that pitcher is going to have to throw more pitches to get hitters out.
Getting back to the money, I think teams are afraid to overuse pitchers because they have so much invested in them. But the pitchers I see sustaining injury aren't the victims of overuse.